GUWAHATI: Twenty years of political grooming—albeit in a dynastic environment—has prepared Congress Lok Sabha member, Sushmita Dev, to carry on the legacy of her father, former Union minister Santosh Mohan Dev, who died on August 2. Sushmita, who was appointed All India Mahila Congress chief early this month, is ready with a grand plan to draw women towards the party.
“There are a large number of women who may not want to join any political party. How we mobilise them is our real challenge. I believe the way forward is social empowerment,” says the 44-year-old, who has got a Master of Laws from King’s College, London.
Sushmita says what the Mahila Congress will essentially try to do is to politically organise the party. It will enable women to feel socially empowered, which is “Soniaji’s vision for social empowerment”.
“Small-scale industries are driven by women workers. We have to penetrate them. I will set up a think tank that will guide me and engage activists and NGOs who have worked in this sector. My priority will be to reach out to women who are not necessarily within the political system,” she says.
Observing that illiteracy is a big issue among Muslim women, she says she was happy the “regressive” instant Triple Talaq has been set aside. “But there are other regressive norms in different practices and customs, and the challenge will be to fight those. Literacy is the only way forward,” Sushmita says.
She categorically says that her endeavour is to bring the women of the Northeast closer to the Hindi heartland. “They are progressive but they don’t get their say,” she observes.
Sushmita’s father, a seven-time MP, had the rare distinction of winning elections from two states—Assam and Tripura. Talking about her political legacy, she says, “I don’t deny my legacy. I admit that it gave me a political advantage. But if you use your legacy to help the party grow stronger, then I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”